Cheese Course Question
Mr. cthoops and I are headed to Paris for the first time at the end of September. We love cheese (all kinds) and have happily noticed that many restaurants have a "cheese course" that comes out after the main course. I've read many accounts of people helping themselves to a variety of cheeses, but I was just wondering how the cost is calculated? Is it based on how many you take, a flat fee, or just included in the prix fixe? I'm trying to avoid an unpleasant surprise when the check is presented!
On a "menu" (what Americans would call a prix fixe, or Brits would call a table d'hote), you may see cheese already included as a course (always eaten between main and dessert). Or as an alternative to dessert.
On the "carte" cheese will be listed separately. Expect to pay roughly dessert prices.
As already mentioned, you will be offered a selection. Select 3 or 4. The server will portion and plate it for you.
f2dat06 suggests you could go back for seconds. Such a thing would be entirely inappropriate (which is why f2dat06 has never seen anyone do it) - would it even cross your mind to do it with another course? Of course not.
I've actually had relatively few cheese courses in restaurants. it's odd, because when i've eaten at people's houses there's almost always a cheese course, but people (at least the people I know) tended to skip it in restaurants. We didn't eat in the fanciest places, though.
But yes, definitely _after_ the main course.
One thing to consider for your trip, if you really want to do well with the cheese, I'd suggest doing a few meals (probably at lunch) that were based around getting some bread from the bakery, wine from the wine shop, and cheese from the cheese shop (or the 'cream shop' as they're sometimes called). The selections there can be amazing. Doing it this way can be fairly economical too, even w/the weak dollar. eat in a park, along the canal or the seine, etc.
That way, in the restaurants, if you're unimpressed w/ their cheese selection, you've at least had your cheeses earlier in teh day.
There is a flat fee for the cheese course (when it is not part of a fixed menu). In a high end places they will wheel an elaborate trolley to your table and you choose samples of as many as you want. These carts can easily have 20 or more varieties. In a lower end place they may only have 4-6 different cheeses to choose from. At some places the cheese course is only one single cheese prepared in some special way.
In the instances where you have several to choose from it is customary to only to have one helping of choices. I guess you could go back for seconds but I have never seen anyone do that. Also, by the time you get to the cheese course you are already pretty full and still have dessert to go so it is hard to really load up.
Pricing is all over the place. At a 2 or 3 star with an extensive selection the cheese course is usually priced in the 15-20e range. This also usually includes some really good breads, dried fruits, confiture, etc to go with the cheeses you selected. At the lower end places where the choices are limited usually the price will be 5-10e.
If you select a tasting menu, many restaurants that have a cheese trolley include this as part of the tasting menu, but not always. Whether or not it is included will be indicated on the menu.